Review: BIRDY

Sébastien reviews an interesting slipjoint by French knifemaker, Sacha THIEL.

It all started 4 months ago when I received a phone call from French knifemaker Sacha Thiel. Our discuss went something like:
Sacha: Hey, I’ve got a new knife, wanna check it out?
Seb: Man, the last thing I need is a compulsive knife buy!
Sacha: Don’t worry you won’t like it anyway… but an honest opinion would be appreciated!
Seb: So it’s not the big camp knife I’m nagging you to produce for years?
Sacha: Nope. The Birdy a slipjoint!
Seb: Grandpa’s knife? You’re kidding, right?

Of course he wasn’t kidding. You may not be familiar with Sacha Thiel’s production but he is, according to what I know or what I’ve seen, one of the very best French knifemakers in the utility/tactical field.

When I met him 13 years ago, he was one of the few makers here to produce high tech folders and balisongs using quality materials such as titanium, carbon fiber, G10, sandwich type steels etc. With that in mind, I was quite sure this new knife wasn’t your average grandpa’s slipjoint.

As an enthusiast of locking folders, I have to say I’m not an expert in slipjoints type folders. If I had to pick one, my go to industrial folder would be my CRK Large Regular Sebenza and I’ll definitely choose a locking blade over a slipjoint.

Of course I have a couple of Swiss Army Knives and I particularly dig the Victorinox Cadet Alox, but this one remains a back-up blade or multi-tool item in my kit. I was really curious to see if I could develop an interest and find a purpose of such a knife in my knife-aholic habits.

When Sacha gave me his magic knife pouch I was happily surprised, the Birdy already came in 2 flavours: black beadblasted G10 scales and stonewashed finish titanium scales. Then I was told a third scales option would be available, a more traditional green micarta.

At first glance the Birdy was a bit bigger than what I had in mind with a closed length of 105 mm. The discovery of the hybrid harpoon swedge of the blade put a huge smile on my face as this feature echoes my preferred folder from Sacha, the PPT Light.

Once opened the blade design appeared to be a mix between a reverse tanto and a modified wharncliffe blade with a certain twist of modernity into it. It is in fact a design based upon Jared Oeser’ Native model. I presume this blade pattern comes from a traditional pattern as I’ve already seen such similar shapes on several custom knives by, Ricardo Romano, JD Ellis, Enrique Pena etc.

Design wise, the Birdy is a very sleek folder, the contoured scales are very comfortable in hand and you can’t find a hotspot of any kind. I knew I couldn’t expect less than 150% from Sacha’s work but for a new type of knife, he knocked it out of the park.

Sacha then explained to me he’d had a knife like this in mind for more than a year. As we knifenuts all know, knife laws tend to be more and more restrictive all around the planet.

The Birdy’s purpose is being a legal solution to the most restrictive knife carry laws such as Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom etc. so the knife had to be opened using 2 hands, the cutting length had to be under 76.5 millimeters. The final product has an overall length of 185mm, a 80mm blade with 70 mm of cutting edge.

After a couple of months of prototyping the knife, especially designing the back spring, Sacha commissioned the Italian company he’s working with to produce the different parts of the knife, including the blades with complete cryogenic heat treatment and a stonewashed finish.

The Birdy is composed of an Elmax blade with a V grind and secondary bevel. The blade has a stonewashed finish a stainless steel back spring, 2 bronze washers, 2 titanium spacers, 2 scales (stonewashed titanium, bead-blasted G10 or green micarta) and the hardware will be bead-blasted for a matte finish.

The assembling and finishing process is then 2 to 3 hours long. Sacha has to adjust the spring strength, work on liners and scales to make sure each part is aligned and come flush. The logo is then engraved and the blade sharpened.

At this point of our discuss, I still couldn’t decide if such a knife would be an option for my needs. On the other hand I couldn’t hide my excitement about this new project and Sacha suggested I should take them both to test them out. That’s what I call a friend!

During the last few weeks I put both Birdy’s in my EDC rotation and used them bluntly. Firstly, I have to praise the awesome fit of the knife. Whether the blade is closed, half or fully opened, the back spring comes flush with its spacers and scales, and creates no hotspots.

Once opened the blade and the spring are perfectly flush and aligned. The top inner spacers are hollowed to avoid friction of the flat parts of the blade during opening/closing action. Very clever, and very impressive!

The black and full titanium Birdy may share the same design, but they seem to be different animals in-hand. The full titanium model seems sturdier, much more heavy-duty oriented but also a lot more refined due to its integral stonewash finish. With a total weight of 97 grams, the knife feels very substantial when carried and well-balanced at the middle of the handle.

As I’m used to pocket clips this model a little bit too heavy for me to sit in my pocket, but that’s a personal feeling. As Sacha Thiel wanted to stick with a traditional pattern, the Birdy won’t be available with any kind of pocket clips but a leather was in the works at the time of writing.

The hole in the back of the handle can accommodate a lanyard or attachment device, such as the Prometheus Design Werx Mini Coil Lanyard, to secure the knife during your preferred adventures. Not a major disadvantage but it has to be mentioned the titanium scales may be slippery when wet (©Bon Jovi), which I experienced a couple of times while using it for food prep.

The G10 Birdy seems to be the more “traditional” of the two due to its overall 2 tone finish. You also have to be aware the model shown in these picture has a different blade finish. Sacha decided to test out 2 finishes, stonewash and the satin. The bead-blasted scales are still very comfortable and they offer a nice grip even in wet conditions.

The Black Birdy is 73 grams, on paper the weight difference doesn’t seems significant but in an Every Day Carry (EDC) configuration, this model is more pocket-friendly. I have to admit this model was also my preferred one as an outdoor companion when I carried it to complement a chopper.

To sum up, I have to say I was very impressed by this knife and I like both flavours. On one hand the design, fit and finish of the Birdy are second to none. On the other hand I haven’t found a situation the knife isn’t pleasant to work with.

I initially thought it was just a nice letter or box opener but I used the Birdy for every kind of food prep (including cleaning fishes), making feathersticks, striking a firesteel, cutting boxes, twigs and myself, you name it… and I had the feeling it was the proper tool for the task, moreover it’s a legal one!

When using my other “one-hand opener” knives, I have noticed I sometimes open/cut/close the knife in a very mechanical way. The cool thing about slipjoints is you have to use both hands to open it so you have to be more focused on your knife. Since the beginning I was sure this knife wouldn’t make it for me, now I want one!

By Sébastien Wachbar

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